Life in These United States

The parallels between the years leading up to the Great Depression and where we stand today are hard to ignore. Is another crash in our future?

Have you ever looked back at the black and white photos taken during the Great Depression? People waiting in lines at soup kitchens. Displaced families living in a ramshackle one-room shanty. People unable to find work. Lines outside of banks during bank runs.

For about 50 years following World War II, that life disappeared. Manufacturing boomed, providing jobs for most anyone who wanted one. Millions moved into the middle class and bought cars and homes, something that once would have been considered impossible. Government brought electricity to rural areas, as was the telephone. Radio and then TV allowed news and information to be broadcast across the nation, and the news was objective. We eradicated diseases like polio and smallpox. Segregation ended. Food was plentiful and children grew larger and stronger. Lifespans lengthened and infant mortality dropped. President Eisenhower created the Interstate highway system. Jet airplanes connected distant cities, and our military won the Cold War.

Today, I look back at the past 50 years, and I wonder what happened to that era when every generation did better than their parents? What was the turning point? When did our country’s arc reach its peak and turn downward?

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